Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Shakespeare, Plays, Peace, Soldiers, Sexual Development, Women


This paper moves beyond current psychoanalytic readings of the women in Shakespeare's plays as either Mother or Other to consider instead the extent to which their sexual development from girlhood into womanhood rehearses what Jacques Lacan describes as man's progression out of the Mirror Stage, through the acquisition of language and the recognition of sexual difference, and into a unified subjectivity. The author argues that Shakespeare's own understanding of sexual difference is predicated, in the case of femininity, upon the model of the feminine peace-weaver which he would have found in Greek mythology, particularly in Ovid's Heroides. It is with the idea of peace in mind that the author selects three of Shakespeare's most violent plays, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry V for her study in this regard. The author then traces the sexual development of Kate, Juliet, and Catherine as they move from the houses of their fathers to the homes of their husbands- a move which effectively ends their dependency on their fathers and leads to their assertion of an independent selthood in marriage. Their acquisition of language shortly after marriage introduces them, she argues, to a world of masculine violence predicated upon the much-disputed possession of the phallus. The author concludes by arguing that these women reject the existence of such a transcendental signifier in order to embrace a more pluralistic understanding of language which becomes, in the end, their greatest asset as diplomatic peace-weavers.